Unfortunately, divorce is all too common these days. While the statistics vary, most sources say that 40-50% of the people who get married will eventually call it quits. There are many reasons for this, but I want to talk about some of the things that a lot of people don't remember when going through a divorce.
The information I'm giving you here is not only from the experience of going through a divorce myself, but also from teaching communication, conflict resolution, and family communication for many years.
1. Know the divorce laws
Obviously, most people are not attorneys. Even if they are, they might not be an expert in divorce laws. For instance, in my state, we were required to go to a co-parenting class before the courts would grant us a divorce. Some of my friends who live in other states had to go through a certain waiting period between separation and divorce. And then other people I know had to wait from the time they got a divorce until they were allowed to get married again. So as you can see, there is a lot of legal matters to consider. You will also want to know the difference between a divorce, a dissolution, and an annulment. Arming yourself with correct legal information will be very helpful when you are going through this process.
2. Be rational
I have known way too many people who seem to lose their mind when they are going through a divorce. Seemingly normal, rational human beings can suddenly turn very selfish. I even saw it happen with my parents. It took them almost two years to get divorced because they were getting very nit-picky about the property and financial settlements. It even came down to them fighting over who would get a glass owl they bought when they were on vacation one year. And their divorce wasn't even that "ugly." It was tame in comparison to many other knock-down-drag-out divorces you hear about. So it's important make sure that you keep your head on straight and act like a mature adult.
3. Take ownership of your part
When people get divorced, it's their instinct to blame the other person. I have a friend who, upon the day of separation from her husband, she asked him, "Do you blame me for how we got to the point of divorce?" And he responded, "Of course I do! Everyone blames their spouse." And then she responded with, "But I don't blame you. I take my half of the responsibility for our marriage." And he said, "Well, I guess you're just a better person than me." That was part of why they were getting divorced -- he didn't take any personal responsibility for his actions. If both people own up to how they contributed to coming to the point of divorce, then everyone will be able to act a lot more rationally.
4. Keep the kids out of it
I've also seen way too many parents to use their kids as pawns. Sometimes they make their kids do the talking to the other parent (such as, "Tell your dad to be at the courthouse at 10:00 tomorrow!") It's not the children's fault that your marriage didn't work. Kids should be dealing with kid problems, not adult problems. There is a lot of research that shows how children can be really messed up from their parents' divorce. But that's mostly because the parents did not handle the situation well and put the kids in the middle.
5. Put the kids' best interest before your own
By keeping the kids out of the divorce, you are putting their needs before your own. For instance, instead of not letting the dad see the kids because you are bitter because he cheated on you, realize how that is affecting your children. Just because you are angry at your spouse doesn't mean that you should "punish" your kids. Everything you say and do should start with you thinking, "Will this harm my child?" If the answer is yes, then don't say or do it.
6. Don't talk badly about the other parent to your kids
This is another sub-set of "put your kids interest before your own." For some people, it is instinctual for some people to talk poorly about their spouse. I suppose it's natural to have negative thoughts (after all, you are getting a divorce). But that doesn't mean you have to let them come out of your mouth -- especially around your children. It's important that the kids love and respect both parents, even if one or both of them have been a jerk to the other. Again -- it's not the children's business. It's yours. So as the saying goes, "if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all."
7. Hire a mediator or get counseling if necessary
If you are just not able to communicate with your spouse, then maybe you should consider hiring a mediator to help you work through the specifics of the divorce. It always helps to have an objective third-party to help you see more clearly and resolve issues. And counseling is always a good choice too. Family counseling will also help the children cope with the divorce as well.
Divorce is never easy. No one gets married thinking, "Hey, maybe someday I'll divorce this person!" Well, maybe some do, but most people don't. It's a painful process, but if you keep some of these things in mind, it might just be a little easier on everyone.